Logo link to homepage

Report on Etna (Italy) — March 1996

Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 21, no. 3 (March 1996)
Managing Editor: Richard Wunderman.

Etna (Italy) Intermittent ash emissions and Strombolian activity from two summit craters

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1996. Report on Etna (Italy) (Wunderman, R., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 21:3. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN199603-211060.

Volcano Profile |  Complete Bulletin



37.748°N, 14.999°E; summit elev. 3320 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Adverse weather conditions that prevented observation of the summit in late February (BGVN 21:02) continued throughout March. Ash puffs from Bocca Nuova crater (BN) were seen during some clear periods on 1 and 5 March, and on the morning of 6 March several black ash emissions were observed. Between 1200 and 1300 a sequence of ash puffs was produced from Northeast Crater (NEC). At 1530, another dense black ash puff was emitted from BN. At sunset the snow mantle was discontinuously covered by a thin ash layer. Ash emissions were again observed during some clearings on 7 March.

On 11 March around 2300 a one-hour long increase in tremor amplitude was recorded at the summit stations. During the afternoon of 12 March the weather improved and after sunset pulsating red glows were observed above NEC by the surveillance camera. Glow produced by the Strombolian activity after 1730 was almost continuous until changing to pulses at 1840 and disappearing at 2100. At the climax, red tracks of volcanic bombs were recognizable up to 150 m above the crater rim. The eruptive episode was marked by increased seismic tremor amplitude similar to that of the previous night.

On the morning of 14 March weather conditions became worse and the video link was interrupted. The video link was restored on 21 March and some minor ash emissions were observed. The observations by the video camera remained intermittent due to the poor weather. Around 2000 on 30 March a remarkable increase in low-frequency events and explosion earthquakes was recorded at all stations of the seismic network; poor weather prevented visual confirmation. The phenomena continued until 2100 on 31 March and during the daytime strong pulsing steam emissions, sometimes with ash, were observed at NEC and BN.

Strombolian activity that began the day after the eighth fire fountaining episode (9-10 February) continued in April, building several nested spatter and scoria cones on the NEC floor; these rose as high as the crater rim.

Geologic Background. Mount Etna, towering above Catania, Sicily's second largest city, has one of the world's longest documented records of historical volcanism, dating back to 1500 BCE. Historical lava flows of basaltic composition cover much of the surface of this massive volcano, whose edifice is the highest and most voluminous in Italy. The Mongibello stratovolcano, truncated by several small calderas, was constructed during the late Pleistocene and Holocene over an older shield volcano. The most prominent morphological feature of Etna is the Valle del Bove, a 5 x 10 km horseshoe-shaped caldera open to the east. Two styles of eruptive activity typically occur, sometimes simultaneously. Persistent explosive eruptions, sometimes with minor lava emissions, take place from one or more summit craters. Flank vents, typically with higher effusion rates, are less frequently active and originate from fissures that open progressively downward from near the summit (usually accompanied by Strombolian eruptions at the upper end). Cinder cones are commonly constructed over the vents of lower-flank lava flows. Lava flows extend to the foot of the volcano on all sides and have reached the sea over a broad area on the SE flank.

Information Contacts: Mauro Coltelli, CNR Istituto Internazionale di Vulcanologia (IIV), Piazza Roma 2, Catania, Italy (URL: http://www.ingv.it/en/).